Hi, my name’s Sam Dyer and welcome to the Life More Powerful podcast. In this episode, I’m going to talk to you about how you may be going wrong by proving yourself right without realising it.
Something intrinsic in human psychology is our love of confirmation bias. We seek out or interpret information in such a way that confirms what we already think. Essentially, we’re reinforcing our values, beliefs and our way of operating. It sits more easily with us than those things that challenge us. Think about what you read for example. Do you seek out variations on a theme or do you honestly go for books which you know are contradictory to your standpoint?
So, how does this affect our mindset?
Have you had a day recently when you got out of bed and immediately stubbed your toe? It’s a pain like no other, isn’t it? Ahhhhhh f…!! The chances are that you start off the day not in the best of moods. You say something like “oh, I just know today is going to be rubbish!” or words to that effect! Of course, you end up spilling coffee on your laptop, being stuck in traffic, missing a meeting and whatever else it is that goes wrong. You’ve proved yourself right. Well done! You said the day would be rubbish and it was. Give yourself a pat on the back. Do you feel good for proving yourself right? No! Of course not!
Whilst we’re on the subject of bad days… do you ever actually really have a bad day? A whole day? All 24 hours? All 1,440 minutes? Or, is the truth of it that you actually had a couple of bad things happen which you then milked all day? I bet that even when someone nearly cheered you up, you managed to fight it. Nope, I’m going to stay mad… I’m having a rubbish day and you ain’t gonna stop me! You know what I mean, don’t you? Those times when you can feel yourself starting to smile and yet weirdly want to stay mad!
It takes conscious effort and energy to push those bad vibes away. Your default position is what I’ve just described, so in order to stop it, you need to step in and take over yourself. How do you do that? It’s a mixture of reframing and changing a reaction to a response.
Here’s a little story to illustrate reframing…
I used to get road rage. A lot. Not to the point of getting out of the car – I was the one who’d be right on the tail of the car that had ‘wronged me’, full beam on and all of that. Not a great way of driving, I know and yet that was me. I always remember this one time when I was in my little Daihatsu Sportrak I had years ago. I was at a filter junction and had to slam on the anchors when someone pulled out in front of me. I used a special hand gesture to suggest that wasn’t the best move on his part. He came out of his car and right up to me. It was at that point that I remembered that I didn’t have the roof on! He kept saying “who’s an anchor?” over and over again… well, I think that’s what he said. It was a split decision – either I take this head-on or I try to pretend it wasn’t meant for him. Fat chance he’d believe that. So, I calmly said, “you are. You just pulled out in front of me when you’ve got your kid in the back. I’ve got bullbars on the front of this and had to slam the brakes on”. Thankfully, he stormed off. What I didn’t realise until I got home was that mum was about 5 cars back from me. Oops! So, this was me.
Fast forward a lot of years and I started learning all this NLP stuff. That’s Neuro-Linguistic Programming. One of the presuppositions of NLP is that all behaviour comes from a positive intent. It really took me some time to get my head around that. Everything anyone ever does has a positive intent behind it. It may not line up with your map of the world and yet it does in theirs. The more I understood about human behaviour, the less I got angry on the roads.
Here’s a more recent driving story. I had been speaking at a conference in Nottingham. I was driving home to Cornwall and had been on the road for something like five and a half hours. At Exeter, I came to a halt. All three lanes of traffic completely stopped. It didn’t take me long to put the pieces together that an accident had taken place just a few hundred yards up the road from me. There was a time – as I’m sure you can guess – that I would have been hopping mad, I would have been cursing and thumping the steering wheel, angry about yet another delay. Not now though. Not these days.
Instead, my first thought was simply one of being totally grateful that it wasn’t me in the accident. How lucky to not be involved in it in any way. I decided to enjoy the time to myself. I could listen to music, think about things, have a stretch. It was lovely. I started to think too about all those little, seemingly unimportant decisions I had taken on that journey. All the times I had sped up or slowed down; when I’d overtaken, or not; when I’d stopped for a wee or decided to make it to the next services – I bet you play that game too and just like me instantly regret it!; when I’d got a coffee to go or stopped in to drink it. Amazing. All of those different things had kept me safe. Incredible. Whether you want to call it being lucky, coincidence, the universe or God, that really doesn’t matter. That’s a by-product. What I’m talking about here is the choice to feel grateful for being stuck in traffic. That’s the power of reframing.
The other point I mentioned was response rather than react. The difference is this: when you react to something, it feels instantaneous. Think about fingernails going down a blackboard. Or maybe a fire alarm sounding. I saw an accident happen on the other side of the road to me once. It was very early in the morning and there was pretty much no traffic around. I immediately slammed on my brakes and ran over to help the young lady who had crashed. A couple of other people arrived too and called an ambulance. It wasn’t until a few minutes had gone by that I realised my car was in the middle of the dual carriageway on the other side of the road. I had to go and move it quickly. If you observe a trained professional arrive on-scene at an accident, they slowly walk towards the scene, taking in everything around them, with their own safety of paramount concern. I’ve now trained myself to respond not react to that kind of situation. A lot of the time, all we need to do is breathe slowly and choose how we respond.
So, here’s my challenge to you:
From now on, if you stub your toe, get held up in traffic or whatever else it may be. Take a breath and respond instead of reacting. When you choose your response, choose a resourceful one. And reframe what has happened into something positive.
Thank you for listening. My name’s Sam Dyer and you’ve been listening to a Life More Powerful podcast. Please share with your friends and don’t forget to subscribe.